Richard Allen was still on cloud nine yesterday after being named Canberra's 2023 Volunteer of the Year. "I'm still coming to terms with it, to be honest," he said. "Didn't I fall off the perch when they read out my name? I had tears coming down my face. "I was honoured. Very honoured." The born-and-bred Canberran was recognised with the top award from VolunteeringACT for his commitment - over more than 40 years - to making the national capital a more inclusive city. His notable achievements include fundraising for the AIDS Garden of Reflection at the National Arboretum, volunteering for annual events, spearheading the CampBerra Mardi Gras Float for 42 years, and providing extensive peer support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Richard, who has been HIV-positive for 33 years, is still volunteering in Canberra with Meridian, formerly known as the AIDS Action Council. VolunteeringACT said Richard's work had helped to create in Canberra "a vibrant and inclusive environment, marked by passionate advocacy and awareness initiatives that actively dismantle barriers". VolunteeringACT hosted its awards night this week at the National Portrait Gallery. Richard recognised both his personas - Richard and Rachel - by wearing heels and a jacket. He had been there for AIDs patients at the height of the panic about the disease, right down to cooking food for them when other people were too scared to do it. "I lost my partner Kimbo to AIDS in 1994. He was one of 19 people who died of AIDS that year in Canberra alone," Richard said. "I'm 33 years on now [being positive]. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I'll do what I can." Now 64, Richard said he hoped more people would be inspired to volunteer. "Canberra survives on its volunteers," he said. "The Red Cross, the RFS - they're all volunteers. Without them, we've got nothing." Volunteering ACT chief executive Jean Giese said this year the organisation received more than 70 nominations across nine award categories, "each accompanied by a truly inspiring story". "It is an absolute pleasure every year to acknowledge and celebrate the region's incredible volunteers and their amazing contributions in our community," she said.